An experienced horse rider dies from a fall… But was it murder?
On October 18, 1992, paramedics were called to a field in a wooded area outside The Plains, Virginia. 37-year-old Shelly Malone, an accomplished horsewoman, had been badly injured in a riding accident. As paramedics struggled to save Shelly’s life, her boyfriend, George Carhart, and two other friends, could only stand by helplessly and watch. One of them, Erica Stumvoll, was the only witness to the accident. According to Erica, Shelly’s horse had stepped on her and kicked her repeatedly. One blow was apparently powerful enough to rupture her heart. Shelly died later that day.
According to the coroner, it was an accidental death. People in horse country tend to accept occasional accidents as part of their lives. But to Shelly’s family, it seemed an impossible scenario for such an experienced rider. According to her mother, Frances Shewan, Shelly had been around horses since she was a young child:
It was horses that brought Shelly to The Plains area in 1988. Shelly lived in a small house out in the country, a perfect place to stable her two horses. In 1990, she started dating George Carhart, who lived in New York and came down frequently to visit.
Two days before she died, Shelly allegedly had a romantic encounter with a local attorney. Shelly’s family believed George Carhart found out about the affair when he came to visit that final weekend. On the afternoon of her death, Shelly went riding with Erica Stumvoll. George Carhart and Carter Wiley, Erica’s boyfriend, stayed behind at the house. Erica has issued only one official statement about the day’s events—a written document she prepared and delivered to the police. This is a selected portion of Erica’s statement:
Erica claimed she got lost trying to find help. It would be an hour and a half before paramedics reached Shelly. Later, George Carhart called Shelly’s mother in Florida:
Shelly’s family left Florida and hurried to Virginia. When they arrived at the morgue, they were shocked by what they saw. According to Shelly’s mother, her daughter looked like she had been involved in much more than a riding accident:
The coroner ruled Shelly’s death an accident, but other events made Shelly’s family even more suspicious. Two days after Shelly’s funeral, her family members visited her house. According to Shelly’s brother Jeffrey, George Carhart was there:
Shelly’s mother said that she argued with Carhart about Shelly’s belongings:
Apparently, the clothes Shelly was wearing when she was killed had been tossed into the dump. The next day, George Carhart took Shelly’s family to the local dump to retrieve them. They never found the clothes, but they say they did discover more than two dozen jewelry boxes from Tiffany and Cartier, all of them empty.
And then there was Shelly’s truck. Her family found what they believed to be bloodstains inside. They asked Detective Tony Lewis of the Wilton Manors Police Department to test them:
Shelly’s family took the truck back to The Plains. They turned it over to local authorities, who performed routine blood tests. However, the Sheriff’s Office claimed they didn’t have the budget to do DNA comparisons. What would DNA tests have revealed? If the blood in Shelly’s car was her own, it could suggest that someone used the truck to move Shelly. But according to the official scenario, only paramedics had moved Shelly after her fatal injury, and they used an ambulance.
Shelly’s family has tried to keep pressure on authorities with newspaper ads, letters, and phone calls. Shelly’s mother, Frances, wants a full investigation, which she believes will prove Shelly was murdered:
The case of Shelly Malone is considered closed by local authorities. Everyone involved declined to be interviewed. In addition, the office of the chief medical examiner in Washington, D.C. has also ruled that the death was accidental. Yet, the family continues to hope someone will come forward with new revelations about how Shelly died.